16 comments on “So is academia a job or a vocation?

  1. I think the real problem is how do we tell those who do it for the love of teaching from those who do it for the love of young girls. Or boys.

    There are a lot worse things than doing it for the money. The problem, at worst, is measuring performance for that money. Not pay itself.

  2. @SMFS, in academia any fringe benefits arising will always involve consenting adults rather than “young girls” or “young boys”. This is not to mention that for science types at least, teaching is about 10% of your interest. It’s very difficult to get any teaching experience at all before you get a job in which you are suddenly expected to teach.

    Actually the things that supposedly keep academia and by extension science itself pure – the intense competition and the insulation from the rest of the world (which results in much self-aggrandisement by academics and a feeling of much higher personal importance to those outside the ivory tower – and especially over those who have left the ivory tower) are actually the things that most corrupt it. That it is a desirable vocation has made many otherwise good people do many bad things in order to progress.

  3. Actually, I agree wholeheartedly with this one. Last time ATL had a strike and I was still working at a British university (must be about 7, 8 years ago) I didn’t strike. If Tim’s proposal means I can have my job back (with the promotions I’d have got as well, please) then I’m all for it.

  4. I’ll not be striking, of course.
    By the way, I note that those who choose to do so will be denied pay for the day.

  5. I’m not striking either.

    How do we encourage the dedicated and discourage the mercenary? The government’s probably going the right way – cut the pension entitlement.

  6. But the more difficult question is how do we encourage the able and get rid of the useless. That’s what the public sector always seems to struggle with.

  7. @Richard,

    It really is remarkable, given the dozens of entirely able people chasing each job how often they manage to appoint the useless. You’d have thought it would be almost imposssible to hire useless people, but the selection committees seem to manage it somehow.

  8. I’m not striking. Because I chose to join an education union which doesn’t remember about its academic members: ATL. (The main reason, actually, was that ATL doesn’t have a problem with a militant fringe of socialists and anti-Semites. Sometimes one feels that UCU doesn’t haven’t a problem with them either, but in a bad way.)

  9. It’s such a long, dull grind to get an academic “tenure track” post – a decade or more working on other blokes’ problems for poor pay – that I’m astonished that people with lively minds put themselves through it. I’ve worked very hard to put my nipper off any thought of it.

  10. I’m not striking. It isn’t my dispute. As a self-employed peripatetic singing teacher, who chose this job over a much more lucrative career in banking, I don’t want to withhold my labour to defend someone else’s pension. I think the kids I teach are worth more than that. But because the school where I teach is closing for the day, I won’t be able to work. The kids won’t be taught and I will lose a day’s pay.

    Why do unionised workers think that it’s ok to exercise their right to strike even if it means that others can’t exercise their right to do the job they love?

  11. JamesV – “in academia any fringe benefits arising will always involve consenting adults rather than “young girls” or “young boys”.”

    For various definitions of adults, and consent for that matter. It is hard to talk about consent when dealing with teachers who assess you.

    “This is not to mention that for science types at least, teaching is about 10% of your interest. It’s very difficult to get any teaching experience at all before you get a job in which you are suddenly expected to teach.”

    Indeed. Even more so that the sort of people who do well in science are likely to be the sort of people who don’t do well communicating with others. I would be suspicious of any lecturer who lectured well.

    I know what you mean. But for this dispute I would think the main problem is not that some teachers want a decent wage. They should get a respectable one. British students are more and more reluctant to go into academia. More and more foreigners are being employed. Which is fine, but a bit sad for Britain. Those that do tend to be either a little bit autistic (and there’s nothing wrong with that) or third rate. The former are the ones we want. The latter are not.

    Or they have some other motivation. Such as meeting young impressionable partners. Or often these days, to convert people for their own pathetic Trotskyite Cult. Both are forms of child abuse and I don’t think the parents who are paying would be happy about either.

    The problem is the Union. Which is useless. Which has sacrificed the needs of academics to their own petty agendas. Real wages are in decline – relative decline certainly, absolute decline, I would think so. It is much less attractive as a profession. Academics have been “de-professionalised” in many ways because they are no longer trusted to do basic tasks. Where has the Union been in all this? Well, demanding Polly teachers are paid the same as everyone else for one thing.

    So I still don’t think TimW is right. The problem is not the desire for a proper wage. The problem is a lack of professionalism from the Union and many academics – which is leading to lower pay and lower status.

  12. >I think the real problem is how do we tell those who do it for the love of teaching from those who do it for the love of young girls. Or boys.

    As an academic who has met and socialized and done all sorts of drunken things with many other academics, I would say that the number of academics who do it for the love of young girls (or boys) is negligible. (That’s not to deny that some do take advantage, but it isn’t why they do the job).

    I should also say that the level of appetite amongst most academics for this strike is very low. Even the hardened Union lefties are struggling to muster much enthusiasm. (I’m not in the Union, it’s a waste of space in every respect).

    The other thing to note is that academic pensions are not public sector pensions — they won’t be paid for by future tax returns (which is one reason — one of the many reasons in fact — why we don’t belong on this strike).

    >How about we keep those to whom it is a vocation and fire all of those to whom it is a job?

    Fine by me, as that keeps most of the serious academics and gets rid of those bureaucratically-inclined, committee-dwelling academics who make life a misery for the rest of us.

  13. @SMFS,

    Ironically I left academia for an industry job which relies entirely on my ability to communicate. They pay me enough for me to never want to go back, even were I not “damaged goods” as far as the academic world is concerned, having been tarred with the evil greedy big pharma brush. That said, I would still prefer to be doing the work – just not with the people who actually have a successful career (as opposed to being successful researchers, since the two only rarely coincide in my experience).

  14. Incidentally last time I did apply for an academic job, I ticked 23 of the 24 items on the job spec (can you believe how hard they do to give these jobs to people they like?). It was a 7-year fellowship (!) with a more or less guaranteed lectureship at the end (can’t remember the specifics of the deal), at Oxford.

    I didn’t get the job, but some less-experienced internal candidate who knew nothing at all about the subject area did. Fuck the lot of them, I don’t want back into a system like that.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>